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What is Women's Performance Endocrinology?
You heard it here first!
I am so excited to begin this new journey in my career where I have the opportunity to bring two of my life’s passions together on my continued mission to help women thrive!
As a physician, I have dedicated my career to Women’s Health. For the last 17 years, I have practiced as a Reproductive Endocrinologist managing hormonal issues from menstrual cycle disorders to infertility to menopausal care. Since age 7, my “free” time has been spent in the fitness world, which has expanded from being a recreational athlete to a fitness professional.
Today, the area of female athletic performance has emerged as a field of its own! There is a greater appreciation of the physiologic differences between male and female athletes, and those differences are rooted in the unique female hormonal physiologic paradigm. It is from this realization that this new area of hormonal health known as Women’s Performance Endocrinology (WPE) was born!
Female Capacity for Adaptation
Genetic females are uniquely suited for physical adaptation. The best example of this is pregnancy!
During what is typically a 9-month period of time, a female’s cardiac output (the volume of blood pumped by the heart in a given time period) increases by 50%! Their blood volume expands and the resistance of their blood vessels decreases to support circulation to the developing fetus.
Their chest size increases to accommodate the upward movement of the diaphragm as the baby increases in size so that lung capacity is preserved.
The immune system undergoes dramatic changes to protect the baby from autoimmune attack, while still maintaining the protection of the mother against outside infection.
Once the baby is born, the cardiovascular system needs to adapt to accommodate the increased blood volume in a matter of just hours, so as not to overload the heart into failure.
The vast majority of the time these adaptations happen seamlessly along the entire spectrum of good and poor health.
What is Fitness?
Fitness can be defined in many different ways depending on what sport or other activities one engages in. But the common thread of achieving excellence is through training and practice, both of which require physiologic and nervous system adaptation.
Adaptation to training is a process by which the body contends with a physical stimulus, recovers from that stimulus, and is stronger, fitter, and more efficient as a result. The response to training and the recovery from it is mainly driven by two neuroendocrine pathways: the Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) or the “Fight or Flight” response and recovery is driven by the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS) or the “Rest and Digest” response.
Because Human genetic females are the limiting factor in procreation, the SNS and PNS have a direct impact on the menstrual cycle. If there is a bear in the woods ready to eat you, the “Fight or Flight” response suppresses the hormonal pathways of the menstrual cycle/implantation because procreation is not a good idea when there is a bear in the woods ready to eat you and your babies.
Because these pathways are involved in the survival of the species, they are highly conserved and thus very powerful. When we, as females, train as athletes or for our profession, these pathways know no difference between the physical training/circumstance and the bear in the woods. So the goal is to harness these primal neuroendocrine pathways that are responsible for our survival and apply them to our training, competitive events, and our high-performance professions.
The focus of WPE is just that! The cutting-edge in women’s performance has emerged through the realization that women are different from men in so many aspects of training, performance, metabolism, and recovery. Attention has now turned to the unique facets of female physiology in the pursuit of optimal female performance.
It is high time that advances in female performance catch up to that of their male counterparts. Coincidently, it is also time for the field of endocrinology to merge its wealth of knowledge with the advances in female performance optimization. With this synergy, we not only can take female physical performance to new levels, but we can also preserve their long-term health and vitality.
So join me and subscribe to Performance Edge where my goal is to give every high-performing female of any age the resources they need to reach their physical potential and lead their healthiest life.